NO-TILLING STEEP SLOPES. Thanks to the many benefits of no-tilling, John McNabb was able to lower his per-acre production costs by $35 to $40 per acre.

No-Till Saves $35 To $40 Per Acre

This Idaho grower relies on no-till to overcome drought worries, higher input costs, increasing land costs and other management concerns.

Check The Specs...

Name: John McNabb (farms and operates other businesses with sons John jr., bill and mike)

Location: Inkom, Idaho

Number Of Years No-Tilling: 27

Acres: 3,500 Has no-tilled more than 40,000 acres during many years

No-Tilled Crops: Hard Red Spring Wheat, Hard Red Winter Wheat, Soft White Winter Wheat, Barley, Alfalfa, Mustard

We started no-tilling almost by accident in the late 1970s in southern Idaho. One of our spring barley fields was set back by frost and didn’t grow very tall.

I decided to seed winter wheat directly into the light stubble with a regular deep furrow drill. It plugged up with straw pretty bad, so after a few rounds we disced the rest of the field before finishing up with the drill. The ground that we disced dried out, delaying emergence. Where we planted into stubble, the wheat germinated normally and got a good early start.

To our surprise, yields were 10 bushels per acre higher (35 vs. 25 bushels) where we direct seeded. That really got our attention. The question we asked ourselves was why mess with tillage if we can find a drill that will cut through the stubble?

The Yielder: What We Needed

We experimented for a few years with the split packer deep furrow drill and also tried several air seeders. But we couldn’t get good depth control. However, when we looked at actual no-till drills, they were only 15 feet wide. We were accustomed to having 30 to 72 feet of seeding…

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Ross ron

Ron Ross

Ron Ross pioneered the “What I’ve Learned from No-Tilling” series that has appeared in every issue of No-Till Farmer since August of 2002. He authored more than 100 of these articles.

A graduate of South Dakota State University’s agricultural journalism program, Ross spent most of his career as a writer and editor.

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